In a surprise move this week, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that they will no longer be accepting political ads on the site. In a statement, he tweeted: “We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” adding “A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.” In order to quell rumors that this was a monetary decision, Twitter CFO Ned Segal also tweeted that the company made only $3 million from political advertisements in 2018. This further emphasizing that this Twitter ban 2019 is based in company philosophy, not profit-making.
A Stark Contrast From Facebook
This announcement comes at a time when social media platforms are being criticized for their political affiliations and practices. Mark Zuckerberg was recently grilled by New York senator Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for Facebook’s policies regarding political advertisements. Facebook’s policies are to never fact-check or remove advertisements, even if said ads make false claims about opponents or cite fantastical statistics. In other words, Facebook’s current political standing is that politicians can say whatever they want on the platform. In a statement this week, Zuckerberg said:
“In a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians or the news.”
He moved on from the brief statement to say that he would continue to debate the matter, as is the company is sticking by Zuckerberg’s original viewpoints. Zuckerberg claims his beliefs have nothing to do with profits, and cites the fact that political advertisements account for less than 0.5% of Facebook’s projected yearly revenue. Both companies cited the fact that political advertisements accounted for little of their revenue, but Dorsey chose to institute a Twitter ban 2019.
Facebook’s Employees Disagree With CEO
Zuckerberg defended his logic for allowing political advertisements on his site in a speech given in early October, saying:
“Given the sensitivity around political ads, I’ve considered whether we should stop allowing them altogether. From a business perspective, the controversy certainly isn’t worth the small part of our business they make up. But political ads are an important part of voice — especially for local candidates, up-and-coming challengers, and advocacy groups that may not get much media attention otherwise. Banning political ads favors incumbents and whoever the media covers.”
While Zuckerberg advocates for his social media platform to remain as free as possible, some of Facebook’s employees have criticized his policies. In a letter that was reported to the New York Times, employees said they feared that “high-profile politicians can out-spend new voices and drown out the competition.”
These complains have not stopped bans however. Zuckerberg is also the owner of Instagram, who’s recently discussed removing the ‘likes count’ from public view. Also, plastic surgery filters were banned, hoping to stop an observed negative effect on youthful users’ self esteem. It’s bad for the business of surgeons, but Facebook nor Instagram are worried about losing the advertisers spending budget.
While politicians have to deal with a Twitter ban 2019, it remains to be seen whether this policy chance will have a profound effect on any future elections. Twitter is one of the world’s largest social media platforms, and has served as a place of political discourse since its founding. Now that ads are out of the picture, will that discourse continue? Or will politicians decide to move their platforms somewhere else? Experts disagree on the matter, and only time will tell.